Fiat Chrysler to engage in settlement talks over diesel emissions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will engage in settlement talks with lawyers representing vehicle owners suing the automaker over excess diesel emissions in Washington on Oct. 12, a court-appointed settlement adviser said Wednesday.

A screen displays the ticker information for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV at the post where it's traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

In May, the U.S. Justice Department sued Fiat Chrysler, accusing the company of illegally using software that led to excess emissions in nearly 104,000 U.S. diesel vehicles sold since 2014. It also faces numerous lawsuits from owners of those vehicles.

German auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL], which develops diesel vehicle systems, has also been sued by U.S. vehicle owners and will take part in the settlement talks next month, settlement master Ken Feinberg said in court.

The government will not participate in the talks, Feinberg said.

In July, Fiat Chrysler won approval from federal and California regulators on Friday to sell 2017 diesel vehicles after it came under scrutiny for alleged excess emissions in older diesel models.

A Fiat Chrysler lawyer, Robert Giuffra, said in court the company was confident of being able to use updated emissions software in the 2017 vehicles as the basis of a fix to address agencies’ concerns over 2014-2016 Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles.

Giuffra said the engine and emissions controls were identical in the older vehicles to those in the 2017 models.

Justice Department lawyer Leigh Rende said the federal government and California were near agreement on a testing plan with the company to see if the fix will work. The government and company must obtain representative vehicles to test as well, she said.

Regulators have said that the older Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles had undisclosed emissions controls that allowed vehicles to emit excess pollution during normal driving.

The company has denied wrongdoing, saying there was never an attempt to create software to cheat emissions rules.

Fiat Chrysler's emissions case came after Volkswagen AG's VOWG_p.DE diesel emissions scandal prompted increased industry scrutiny. The German automaker pleaded guilty in March to having intentionally cheated on emissions tests for vehicles it sold since 2009

Volkswagen has agreed to spend up to $25 billion to address claims from U.S. owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers, and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles.

Regulators are also investigating emissions in Daimler AG Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles, but have yet to take any action. Daimler withdrew a request for approval to sell its 2017 Mercedes-Benz diesel models in the United States in May.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown